Tag Archives: Egypt

September 22, Feast of St Maurice: Pilgrimage in honour of the Saints of Africa.

 stm

This event takes place each year at Saint Maurice in Switzerland on the Sunday after the Feast of the Uganda Martyrs. For its sixteenth gathering the Pilgrimage to the Saints of Africa gave a special place to the Coptic communities of Egypt.

 

Despite the wet weather on this Pentecost Day, the pilgrims brought themselves from across Switzerland to Saint Maurice in the Canton of Valais, and gathered at the church of Saint Sigismond.

The morning resounded to the rhythms of the singing pilgrims, who came from Eritrea, Ethiopia, Congo, Togo, Cameroon, Burkina Faso, Cap Verde, all alongside the Egyptian Copts. The witness of Mgr Bishay, the Egyptian Bishop of Luxor, opened people’s hearts to the Spirit of God who is active to this day in the hearts of Egypt’s Christians.

Luxor in Upper Egypt is the home town of Sant Maurice and his Companions of the Theban Legion, martyred around the year 300 at Augane, the place know today as Saint Maurice in Valais.

Bishop Bishay testified that Christians in the Middle Eat are paying with their lives for the simple fact that they are Christians, falling victim to religious intolerance. He insisted forcefully that anyone who claims to kill in God’s name does not in fact know God.

The pilgrimage drew to a close at the basilica in a festive Eucharist, opening with the Litany of the Saints, including Antony the Great of Egypt and the Blessed Martyrs Maurice and his Companions. They live forever in Divine Light.

This pilgrimage gathers Africans from across Switzerland to celebrate according to their own culture and outlook. It also offers a window through which one can see the rich traditions of Africa.

Text and photos from The Missionaries of Africa in Switzerland.

Mgr Ayad Bishay, Bishop of Luxor in Upper Egypt. The Zurich African choir, at the parish church of Saint Sigismond. Mgr Bishay with pilgrims at the entrance to the basilica of St Maurice. gr Bishay with Abbot of St Maurice Jean Scarcella.

More information and photos here:

https://www.cath.ch/newsf/les-coptes-degypte-au-coeur-de-la-16e-edition-du-pelerinage-aux-saints-dafrique/

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August 16: Famous first words.

Picture Friday wk 3 (1) 

Let’s stay in Egypt for today: that’s the one link with yesterday’s post, though we are some way west of the Great River, in the desert, in 1942.

As a Church we should learn from whoever can teach us. We could certainly benefit from a few lessons in leadership, so how about this as a new boss’s address to his staff, who were feeling the emotions on the signpost above?

You do not know me. I do not know you. But we have got to work together; therefore we must understand each other and we must have confidence in each other. I have only been here a few hours. But from what I have seen and heard since I arrived, I am prepared to say, here and now, that I have confidence in you. We will then work together as a team, and together we will gain the confidence of this great army and go forward to final victory in Africa.

That was General Bernard Montgomery assuming command of the British and Empire 8th Army in Egypt. Things had been going badly for a while before that.

His driver Jim Fraser, who took him around the front-line units recalled: ‘One could feel the confidence of the troops getting stronger, they were told what was going to happen and when it was going to happen. I must admit that I felt dead, dead chuffed when driving round the forward unit positions with the lads cheering and shouting, ‘Good old Monty!’

Monty believed that his ‘civilians in uniform’ should have sight of the big picture and they responded to that. Peter Caddick-Adams1 points out that logistics and intelligence also played their part in the victorious campaign. The role of Military Intelligence could not be revealed until recently when secret papers were opened up to scholars and journalists, but Monty’s confidence in his troops built their confidence in him and in each other. That is leadership. That inspires.

1Peter Caddick-Adams, Monty and Rommel, Parallel Lives. London, Preface, 2011. pp 284-285; 300-301.

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15 August: The flooding of the Nile

lakewavesb.w

The Assumption of Mary and the Flooding of the Nile: two feasts on the same day, can we connect them?

The Nile, of course, is life to Egypt, water and fertility. Here is Arthur Hughes, Missionary of Africa, just arrived in Cairo in 1942 after working in Ethiopia, then often called Abyssinia:

The heavy rains of Abyssinia run down from her mountains and hillsides in torrents and go to swell the River Nile as it flows out of Lake Tana. I thought how those Biblical years in the Old Testament – the seven years of thinness and famine in Egypt – were due of course to seven years of slight or no rains in Abyssinia. This year here at Cairo the River is very high: August the 17th is Feast of the Nile and has been for thousands of years, since for thousands of years the month of August brings down to the Nile Delta the torrential rains of Abyssinia and the Nile overflows its banks and waters the lands and forms that green belt of vegetation in the middle of the desert which is Egypt.

valencia.mary

Mary provided an oasis of love where her son could grow into boyhood and manhood, for the first few years in Egypt, traditionally in the Cairo area. Imagine her in the market, buying food grown in the fertile soil of the delta, just as we do – though she would not have bought Egyptian potatoes or tomatoes, as we have done this Spring.

Let us be grateful for the food we receive from Egypt and around the world; let’s pray for true peace in Egypt and the Middle East; and let’s thank God for Mary’s loving care of her Son, and the true peace which he brings.

MMB.

I do not know why we have two slightly different dates for the Nile Feast! MMB.

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15 March, Human Will X: No permanent city here.

 

hughes-photo-group-pre-mission-2-800x532

The future Archbishop Arthur Hughes is front centre above with fellow Missionaries of Africa in 1934 just before he left Europe for Uganda, where he would later be posted to Gulu. Here are some thoughts of his on carrying out God’s will and the joys and hardships he experienced in the process. He is writing to his parents. Missionaries of Africa are commonly called White Fathers because of their habit.

I stayed in Gulu until on the 27th March 1942 I got a telegram from the Mombasa  [Apostolic] Delegation asking me to go to Abyssinia.

Like a true White Father I obeyed instantly and the very next morning at nine was crossing the Atura ferry on my way back to Rubaga en route for the coast and Abyssinia. I will not hide from you that I found it a wrench leaving Gulu and the journey was rather sad in a way: but missionaries have no permanent city here and sadness is not part of our life and certainly not part of mine. The will of God must rule our life and in carrying out that will we find our greatest joy.

I left Rubaga the following Wednesday and went to Mombasa to await a boat for Berbera. I arrived in Berbera on the 6th May and went up by military convoy through Somaliland to Ethiopia.[1] The journey through Somaliland has no attractions: poor old Somaliland being for the most part a most appalling desert with an amazing number of camels (more than I ever saw in North Africa). We stayed for a few days at Lafaruk: an appalling camp in the desert while our convoy was in formation.[2] Once you rise up towards Jijiga the country becomes green and then becomes cold – too cold for my liking. The famous Mahda Pass is stupendously beautiful and then the first view of the town of Harar is really rather lovely. It’s a very old town; really a sort of Turkish[3] town amongst the hills.

From Harar to Diredawa you have thirty miles of sheer beauty amongst the mountains – a most wonderful road winds round the hills and above you on the heights you can still see the remains of the ancient camel tracks over which tradition has it that the Queen of Sheba travelled when she went from Ethiopia to the Holy Land in the days of King Solomon… At Diredawa I left the military convoy and the good Officers with whom I had made friends on the way and took the Littorina electric train to Addis.

From the 12th May to the 12th August I stayed in Addis with of course occasional trips to other places rendered necessary by my work.

…  I must confess that I did not like the Ethiopian climate. I found it too high for me (it is nine thousand feet up in most places) and I was there in the rainy season and found it most unpleasant after sunny Uganda. It simply rains unceasingly for three or four months and is most unpleasant and always cold. I found this very painful indeed. Also I was there only on a temporary mission and there was not as much to do as I should have liked. It was therefore a very great delight to me when on the 29th July I got a letter from Archbishop Dellepiane in the Congo[7] writing to inform me that the Holy Father had decided to confide in me the control of the Apostolic Delegation of Egypt and Palestine.

[1] Berbera was the principal port in British Somaliland. The road to Ethiopia is being rehabilitated with European aid: http://somalilanddevelopmentfund.org/news/75-official-launch-of-lafaruk-berbera-sheikh-road-rehabilitation-project

[2] The British had a POW Camp for 35,000 Italian soldiers; its desolation can be imagined from the background to the Lafaruk Madonna by Giuseppe Baldan. Did Fr Hughes celebrate Mass before this triptych? No doubt the convoy was a precaution against guerrillas. http://scottishchristian.com/the-maize-sack-masterpiece-that-symbolises-hope-in-africa-over-60-years-on/ . Accessed 4/11/2016.

[3] Harar had been a Moslem city-state.

[4] Where he was Apostolic Delegate – http://www.catholic-hierarchy.org/bishop/bdell.html

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January 7: Jesus was a Refugee.

hughes-cwl-picture2-el-tahagPhoto from Catholic Women’s League

This hut stood at the edge of a World War II army camp in Egypt called El Tahag. There were training grounds there for Allied troops as well as Prisoner of War camps housing Italian and German soldiers. The Catholic Women’s League ran a club for the Allied troops, with a small chapel which is marked by a cross above the right-hand window facing us. The women who served there were volunteers, mostly from Britain; they worked in other places in Egypt, including Saint Joseph’s Church in Cairo.

Holy Family Window, Catholic Church, Saddleworth

Holy Family Window, Catholic Church, Saddleworth

The sailors, soldiers and airmen they served may not have been refugees but they were far from home and were glad of the refuge offered by the women from home; a comfortable armchair and the secret weapon  of a cup of tea, with female company, even if they, too, were in uniform.

It’s believed that the Holy Family stayed somewhere near Cairo when they were refugees.

Unlike many refugees in Britain today, Joseph was able to work to support his wife and son, once others had helped him set up a new business. Joseph and Mary must have been a good team, working together to ensure Jesus was not traumatised by the experience.

I recommend this  article:

Jesus was a refugee

Dr Joan Taylor links Jesus’ experience as a refugee with the mission he set his followers to carry nothing, to accept what they were given, to shake the dust of enmity from their feet.

God Bless your family this year!

MMB

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2 January: Mary, Queen, Mother of Mercy

Mary Queen of Africa at Bobo diolasso from MAfr W Africa

Picture from Missionaries of Africa, West Africa Province.

This statue of Mary is at Bobo Dioulasso in Burkina Faso, a modern, West African expression of the crowned statue of Our Lady of Africa in Algiers.

We pray, ‘hail, holy  Queen, mother of mercy.’ Here we see a queen crowned and wearing the gold collar-necklace associated with West African Kings. That crown would be impossibly heavy in real life, but she is erect, neck straight. The serene half-smile suggests that Shakespeare’s words ‘uneasy lies the head that wears the crown’ do not apply to this Lady, Our Lady.

And why is she a queen at all? True, she was of David’s line, but the crown, like the British crown, bears the Cross as its crest – not a serpent as in ancient Egypt, the only African country we know she lived in. She is under her Son’s protection but she knows suffering and it does not weigh her down.

Those open hands could be welcoming a child running home from the playground or school (a place that sometimes can feel like an exile from home). Her hands are open, a gesture of peace.

Mary’s eyes are looking down at whoever is approaching her, but her whole being is under the sign of the Cross. What does she tell us?

‘Do whatever He tells you.’

And if you do, signs of his Kingdom will be seen. (John 2).

Mary was the catalyst for a great sign at Cana; what will people discern when they listen to us and observe us this year? Will they see us, or will they see him, or perhaps, like the wedding planner at Cana, they will see something marvellous but not take it in. But we are children of Eve, not glorious unless by reflection: non nobis Domine!

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July 26: The Parents of Mary, Saints Joachim and Anne.

joachim (519x800)

 

The Gospels tell us nothing at all about Mary’s parents, Jesus’ grandparents. Were they still living when Jesus was born, did they get to play with him as a baby? Perhaps not, if the Holy Family had to stay in Egypt for any length of time. Mary would surely have welcomed another pair of hands around the house, while her parents would have been anxious all the time the Holy Family spent in exile.

 

They were real people, even if we do not know their names for sure. The traditional names of Joachim and Anne first appear in the Second Century. The Missionaries of Africa look after the Basilica of Saint Anne in Jerusalem, built on the traditional site of their home. It is now a house of studies and retreat where pilgrims are welcomed to the church dating back to Crusader times.

 

Anne is the more celebrated of this couple. I don’t ever remember seeing a statue of Saint Joachim, though the happy couple are celebrated in icons and Anne is often shown teaching Mary to read. But then, last week, on a visit to Manchester, I found him at Holy Name Church. He appears as an old man with a beard wilder than my own. (Maybe Anne was less assertive than my wife.) And he carries a basket and two doves: we think of the two doves offered by Joseph and Mary when Jesus was taken to the Temple as a baby. (Luke 2:24) But perhaps we should remember the deserved reputation doves have for ‘billing and cooing’ – unabashedly showering affection upon each other all through the day. Those doves could stand for Joachim and Anne and for all married couples.

 

I was happy to learn, from the note beside Joachim’s statue, that he is the patron of grandfathers. I can live with a patron whose beard and hair are something to aspire to! And I can try to live up to the standards of care lavished on his grandson as well as the way he must have supported Mary and Joseph through those difficult months of pregnancy and maybe too their time as refugees. Fun though it is, grandparenting is serious work, God’s work, and mostly in the background.

WT.

 

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July 5, Relics III: Domestic Relics

Holy Family Window, Catholic Church, SaddleworthThere are objects round our house and garden that remind me to pray for people. Outdoors we have Siberian iris, given to us by the Dominican friar who blessed our wedding, Aidan Deane. A couple of years ago we were able to give a crown to the Dominicans in Edinburgh for the garden around their new chapel.

I like Bro Guy Consolmagno’s comment, linking such things to our pre-Christian roots:

Our knick-knacks define home to us; they are, echoing the practice of ancient Rome, our ‘household gods.’ [1]

I recently had an exchange in verse with Frank Solanki about this. He wrote:

Walls

Without you here
This ain’t a home
Not even a house
They’re just walls

(See more of Frank’s work here: https://franksolanki.wordpress.com/ )

My reply may tell you that my mind is more cluttered than Frank’s – or is it just my house?

Walls and crannies.

But now, reflect, all these years on,
Each room still breathes my girls, my son,
Though from our home they all have gone.
Photos stand among my books,
Seaside shells in little nooks;
Serving spoons on kitchen wall,
And, dear friend, that is not all.
Stored for years in the loft above
Are things they need not but can’t shove:
Toys that whisper words of love.

What objects might the holy family have kept around the house? I expect the Magi’s gold was used to set up home in Egypt. Is that where they are in this picture? Mary has a rose around the window to help make the house a home.

We can pray to the Holy Family, that our home may be a safe Ark for all our family:

Jesus, Mary and Joseph, I give you my heart and my soul, I give you my family and loved ones.

Holy Family Window, Catholic Church, Saddleworth.

[1] http://www.vofoundation.org/blog/across-universe-moving-experience/

 

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July 17: John Cassian and Interiority: I

 

Karl Rahner wrote, “The Christian faith professes that God is not merely the God far off….  God wills to be, in self-communication, the ‘content’ and future of man.”  I would like to explore how this may be realised in us, with the assistance of John Cassian.

This might strike some as an unlikely pairing.  Rahner is modern, and John Cassian was born around 360. His birthplace was Dacia (present-day Romania).  How can someone who lived so long ago, and in such a far-away land, possibly help us to understand Karl Rahner’s insight?  Before we begin to answer this question, a bit of background about John Cassian.

Only a few facts about John Cassian have survived time’s ravages.  He was from a well-off family and was well-educated.  In his twenties, he entered a monastery in Bethlehem, and several years later he embarked on a pilgrimage to the then-famous monasteries of Egypt.  He spent perhaps ten years there, learning about the spiritual life from the great Egyptian monastic fathers.

After this long period of training in monastic wisdom, Cassian was ordained to the priesthood.  Finally, he ended up in Marseilles.  There, he founded two monasteries and wrote The Institutes and its companion work, The Conferences.  These are the writings I would like to refer to in the next several posts, for they speak about what, for Cassian, was the only thing that mattered: life with God.

One of the most intriguing terms Cassian uses to describe our inner self is that of the “vessel”.  Cassian first uses the term in his book’s dedication.  Addressed to one Bishop Castor, who himself had founded a monastery and had asked Cassian to write about what he had learned of monasticism in Egypt, Cassian says to the Bishop:

You are setting out to construct a true and spiritual temple for God…out of a community of holy men; and you also desire to consecrate very precious vessels to the Lord out of holy souls that bear within themselves the indwelling of Christ the king (emphasis mine).

 

Here, Cassian is saying that we are created as “containers” – that’s just how we are.  And so we are meant to have something inside.  Rahner says that God wants to be that “something.”  So does Cassian.  For both Cassian and Rahner, what makes us precious is not a thing, but a person: God.  Christ himself.  If we bear Christ within, we shine with his goodness.  How?  That is something that we will explore.

SJC.

Dear Friends,

This post somehow got out of sequence. My apologies! It will reappear on July 17th as advertised, to be followed by the rest of Sister Johanna’s reflections. WT.

If we bear Christ within, we shine with his goodness. St Maurice, Switzerland, MMB.

 

 

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3rd March: ‘O that today you would listen to his voice’

Picture Thurs wk 3
Image from thecatholiccatalogue.com

(Jeremiah 7:23-28, Psalm 94, Luke 11:14-23)

God is calling the Israelites a stubborn nation. A nation that he calls his own. A nation that he LOVES and gave away other nations so as to keep it. We can recall the wonders that He worked in the land of Egypt for the sake of the Israelites. God is telling them “Listen to my voice, then I will be your God and you shall be my people”. Think of how it feels when you are telling someone that you so much love to please listen to you. Instead, you are being wrongly accused, as they are accusing Christ in the gospel reading today, of casting out demons by the power of Beelzebul.

What is that can make us turn our backs on God? Romans 8: 35 says: ‘Who shall separate us from the Love of God? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword, or hungry, or destitute, or danger, or when we are threatened with death?’

God is able to shoulder our problems with us and make our burden light if only we are able to listen to his words today. The Psalmist is telling us” O that you today, you would listen to his voice! “Harden not your hearts”. If we listen to his voice today, we will hear Him calling us in different ways, for He wants us to GATHER with Him and not to SCATTER.

May God give us the graces of inward listening so as to hear Him and respond to Him for He Loves us more than we can imagine. May our Lady, the first woman to hear the call of God and respond without looking back pray for us and work with us in this journey of life. Amen.

FMSL

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